At some point in 2014, I thought I would start a business in something I had no skill or expertise in. Media and Communications was my chosen University course, but I always had a steady passion for fashion and contour design. Initially, Cotton and Push was about creating gorgeous push up and sensual bras that were accessible for anyone who had tricky difficult skin or skin conditions that made placing synthetic bra cups next to their skin, (especially nipples) very problematic. I thought I was a bloody genius. Problem was, I had never been schooled in this very intricate skill - nothing, from sketching, to pattern making, to sewing, to anything in between.
When I started planning this venture seriously, I sought out a Freelance Lingerie Designer. I didn't even know that was a job. It seemed like a very cool one. The individual I found was very good at what she did, she had previously designed for big names and I was honoured she accepted my little project. We met over coffee, and attempted to discuss the possibilities of covering all the bra cups in soft cotton. She was tremendously lovely and very very good at her job. When she showed me the finished designs, I felt like I was in a design fairy tale, and my fairy godmother just handed me the key to my kingdom. I literally took these sketches EVERYWHERE. We even travelled to Russia to see my family and they came with me. I was overcome with pride and couldn't wait to make these designs a reality.
After a while, this little fairy tale became less and less realistic. There was one reason that probably outweighed the rest. I remember at this time changing as a person. I went vegan, I found out about ethical living and this bled into fashion as well as food and everyday use of plastics. I remember watching "The True Cost" and bawling my eyes out. This documentary opened my eyes to the impact of the mass amounts of synthetic fabrics we use in fast fashion...and there was no other segment of fast fashion in which they were used more than Lingerie.
I thought I was a good person by providing undergarments anyone with sensitive skin could wear. It wasn't enough. Just like when we rescued two dogs, it wasn't enough so we rescued four. It wasn't enough when we recycled, so we bought less. It wasn't right to continue with this business, so I didn't. Some money got wasted on things that had been made and plans that had already been put in motion. Meh. It's just money. I instantly reached out to suppliers of organic cotton fabrics and trims and collected a cacophony of swatches. Naturally things slowed down, and this is one of the reasons it's taken me 5 years to make Cotton & Push a reality. Well that and the other factors that make starting businesses by yourself difficult.
There were frantic attempts to attach the fabrics I had found to the designs that had already been made. I had envisioned replacing stretchy lace with rigid voile, decorative trims with cotton rick rack, translucent mesh with cotton or linen sateen. It wasn't giving - literally, the fabrics I so desperately wanted to feature did not have any give or stretch, and that meant they couldn't be used to make lingerie. You needed SOME form of skin tight effect to make underwear. Again, I felt like I was in over my head. A little girl playing with sketches trying to make a business in an industry she has no presence in, playing with fabrics like she thinks she will stumble upon a Eureka moment others more talented than her have somehow missed.
Following another lull and loss in confidence, I eventually persisted. A re-evaluation was needed. The fabrics quickly became the most important part, and the business plan was re-written. My manufacturer had probably grown very tired of me by this point - 'little girl keeps changing her designs.' Oh well. For some reason, I decided to have a go at some fresh designs. I had done this many times before but the results were never intended for anything important. Selecting my favourite cotton sateen, lacy cotton lappets, soft voile and bamboo silks, I re invented Cotton & Push's first collection. I got rid of the old names and thought of new ones.
It was extremely difficult to achieve garments that would hug the natural body whilst being free of plastic based fabrics like nylon, polyester or acrylic. Compromises were made, but I fell in love with the finished pieces even more. Thankfully I had a very skilled manufacturer on my side. I was very keen to learn from her - I was always in awe of her talent. She had corrected me on grandiose ideas several times and for my own benefit - I learnt many things from her.
Now, Cotton & Push features four bras and its lower counterparts. I was involved in the designing and making of every single one of them. There isn't a design that i'm "iffy" on. The total Research and Development process took years in truth, plus a lot of failed samples, dodgy washing machine incidents, tiring travels around the Midlands, tears and dolla dolla bills.
In the end I was extremely proud to launch our collection and website. If you are interested in viewing the brain child of this semi-competent business owner click here.